In an all-American battle, eight-time Major champion Venus Williams takes on the rising teenager Caroline Dolehide for a place in the second round in Montreal. Williams had her best season in some years in 2017, which included reaching two Grand Slam finals, but has thus far found it difficult to replicate that success this year. The 19-year-old Dolehide, meanwhile, won her first Slam match in May and will be looking to claim surely the biggest win of her career. Who will come out on top?
This will be the first meeting between the pair. But in terms of experience it is unsurprisingly the great Williams who has the advantage. The 38-year-old has won 787 matches in her career and claimed 49 singles titles, including eight Grand Slams although she has never won in Canada, her best effort being a runner-up finish in 2014. Dolehide has 118 match wins to her name, but few at the highest level, and has never won a title. She is also making her debut at the Canadian Open.
Last time out
Williams struggled valiantly to the third round at Wimbledon having failed to find her best form, but despite a commendable effort against Kiki Bertens she came up short there, losing 2-6 7-6 6-8. She then began her North American hard court swing at the San Jose Classic where she was seeded third. In her first match she finished strongly to defeat Britain’s Heather Watson 6-4 4-6 6-0, but she was undone in the quarterfinals by Maria Sakkari, losing 4-6 6-7.
Dolehide elected to play in Washington DC rather than California, but lost 3-6 4-6 in the first round to eventual finalist Donna Vekic. That gave her plenty of time to prepare for the qualifying in Montreal where she played some fine tennis. She first defeated Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets 6-3 6-4 to reach the final round before overcoming Rio gold medallist Monica Puig 6-3 4-6 6-3 to reach the main draw.
How do they match up?
Both Williams and Dolehide are naturally aggressively minded players which should make for a contest of rich shot making. Williams throughout her career has been amongst the best servers on the WTA Tour and holds the record for the fastest serve hit at three of the Slams. She will need that weapon to be firing against Dolehide. Her forehand and backhand are also both solid weapons, but whilst she has defended well for most of her career, she has looked perhaps half a step slow this year.
Dolehide has enough power from the back of the court to exploit any lack of footspeed on the part of Williams. She looks confident teeing-off on both her forehand and backhand and that makes her dangerous indeed when she is at her best. But it is one thing to have power, and quite another to be able to reliably control it, which is not something Dolehide has yet demonstrated she can do regularly. Against Williams, however, reining in her unforced error count will be essential.
Dolehide looks to have a bright future in the game. But at the moment she does not look ready to take on Williams and win as well as she played in qualifying. Williams is one of the greatest champions the sport has ever produced, and though she may be slightly overshadowed by her sister, the scale of her achievements should not be underestimated. Thus whilst she may be struggling for form, she certainly does not lack heart or quality. Williams in two, tight sets.